Celebration Run

As I went to bed late, I didn’t have any clue of how am I supposed to wake up the next day to run early. I did set the alarm to 6 am and thought if I had as strong will to run I would wake up.

5:59 am I woke up without the alarm, didn’t feel strong but the will that woke me up without the alarm need nourishment.

I planned a route two nights before, taking Al-Azhar Street to Salah Salem and back passing by Magra Al Eioun. My friend warned me that it would not be a beautiful run as it seems, as there will be a lot of garbage beside Magra Al Eioun.

I went to the streets without making my mind of which route should I take on coming back. All I had in mind was to run for a long distance in celebration for my 40th birthday. I listened to  Rocky motion picture soundtrack as I passed through downtown, had a pit stop to drink water and continued to Al-Azhar Street.

I took a random left and asked for Al Moez Street, the guy told me right around the corner. Next right I was running between the old mosques and houses watching young couples whispering and old men and women wandering with their eyes listening to the sounds of history. In the middle of the street, I stopped and asked a refreshment shop for a mix of orange and banana juice because of its potassium. Later I walked for a couple of minutes so not to provoke stray dogs then continued my run back to home.

It was a quiet a celebration for me and a challenge, after all, one year ago I was running with a friend four k and was tired. So this year was different, doing 14.6 k on your birthday as a routine was a real achievement for me. Thank you, God, I cannot ask for more.

Embrace Contrast & Break the Barrier

Since the Aswan Half Marathon, held last February, I didn’t exceed the 10k per run.

Last two weeks I had a bad seasonal allergy, and I felt like I never ran before and got a sense of doubt whenever the thought of running came to my mind. It was a strange feeling as I only stopped running for two weeks.

Monday morning, Labor Day vacation, I wasn’t completely cured but I needed to break the status quo, so I took my shoes off for a quick run. I ran an easy six k, didn’t feel strong but I managed to finish comfortably.

The following Friday I had a plan, I wanted to run to Al Moez Street, drink sugar cane juice and come back. I didn’t know exactly the distance, but I knew its more than 10k.

I started around 8 am, a little bit late for a summer run as the sunrise is 5 am, besides the increasing traffic. Crossed Qasr El Nile bridge through Tahrir and Opera and Ataba Square then through Al Azhar street.

It’s remarkable seeing the Egyptians daily life on the streets while running. People were going to their work on Friday, some having breakfast on the foul street cars, sellers in their shops waiting for customers, families going to Al Hussein Mosque while tourists were going to Khan Al-Khalili marketplace.

Imagine this scenery with me running in my phosphoric green shirt and listening to Drake and The Weeknd while cruising through the cars and walking crowds. You have to embrace the contrast and lose yourself to the rich experience.

I stopped for a pit stop at a juice shop, asked for a sugar cane juice and took another small size one after finishing the first large glass. I walked for five minutes in Al Azhar street in order not to be nauseated and later on took some selfies.

After running 7k for a one-way leg it seems obvious that my run would easily pass the 10k barrier I had in my mind post the half marathon race.

Then I thought again, it has never been a physical barrier it was always a mental one. Anything is life will be most of the times only limited by your mental state and your lack of creativity and imagination.

If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve with hard work and planning. Sometimes you will not reach your destination or goal, but at least you will realize a big part of it and in worse case scenarios you or on the way of reaching it. Dying trying is better than sitting and crying.

Egyptian Women Thank You

Back home after a long work day, opened the door and found my lovely wife waiting for me and suddenly I found out that I did not buy her birthday present yet. In a quick move I put my laptop on the table and told her I forgot something downstairs.
Twenty minutes later I came back with the present and teased her that she will get it only on her birthday, tomorrow morning when the kids wake up.
That night I slept a little bit late and I couldn’t imagine how will I be able to wake up for tomorrow’s run at 5:30 in the morning. However as usual I had a light sleep, anxious so not to miss the run.
At 5:15 am I was standing in Zamalek waiting for the run to start. We took a different route this time, passed 15th of May bridge, through Maspero corniche to downtown and back to Zamalek through the famous Kasr El Nile bridge.
The streets were a little bit filled with people compared to our usual morning runs, especially the Maspero area. I noticed how sometime men gaze or take a lough when they see a running woman.
I admit, it’s unusual to see women running in the streets of Cairo 5 am in the morning and it is this unfamiliarity that make these women brave and courageous.
We finished 6:30 am and I was in hurry to see the kids before going to school and witness the moment of giving their mom her birthday present, which I left in my daughter’s room.
Sadly, I came back a couple of minutes late, they were already left and the ceremony ended, however my wife was very happy.
At this moment, I had great admiration for my wife and all the moms out their looking for their kids, fighting to keep everybody around them satisfied. My wife who’s pregnant, had to wake up early as usual, even on her birthday, to wake up the kids and make sure everything is running smooth and in order and that all their needs are fulfilled despite her neediness to rest and celebrate. And just as my wife was so beautifully doing her mom’s role beside her work, in my mind I saluted the early morning running moms, who are trying desperately to fit their running schedule in their usual work-mom routine.
Women in Egypt are doing an extra work load, fighting the cultural norms, avoiding gazing and harassing men in the streets and work environment, raising their demanding children and taking care for their sometimes-selfish husbands in addition to their work.
If I can say a word to them, Thank you.

When your Heart follows Your Mind

Today was our weekly run date, 5:30 am “Sharp” said Amany the team leader last night before we went to sleep.

5:33 am we stared our way to downtown Cairo, showed my Garmin wrist watch.

I tried to catch up with the group pushing my usual pace, witnessing the rising sun while crossing the kasr el Nile bridge is a moment not to be missed. Passing through bab el Louq square you can spot the renovated old buildings with gold paint decorations. Finally I arrived with last few runners at Abdin Palace. Egypt was ruled from this palace starting from 1872 to 1952 and was built by AlKhedwi Ismail Pasha.

We had to take our famous running group selfie before we start our way back to Zamalek.

I usually try to train below zone 5 heart rate training zone which is below 90% of my maximum heart rate, unless I am finishing or in a race, as it is much safer for your heart, muscles and joints.

Today on my way back I found Ibrahim and Safi waiting for me and told me “Today you should finish with us”. At that moment I took the decision and didn’t care much about the heart rate training zones and kept in pace until we reached our starting point. And guess what ? Although I ran at a higher pace my heart rate did not get higher.

While stretching I had a small talk with Ramy, who turned out to be a young doctor and will soon be leaving Egypt to start a residency program in the USA. 

I guess ramy did not want to leave Egypt and probably had another future planned when he entered medical school 8 years ago, but sometimes you have to change the mental state and the heart will follow.

A Runner at Dawn A doctor by day

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9:15 am: Wake up
10:00 am: Taking the elevator with my wife on my way to work
Five hours earlier…
5:30 am: Warming up in 26th of July street in Zamalek
6:00 am: Taking a selfie with the group in front of Ibrahim Pasha statue
6:15 am: Heading back on Kasr el Nile bridge watching the sun rise and the full moon in a beautiful scenery
6:40 am: Taking breakfast in Copenhagen Patisserie in Zamalek
8:30 am: Taking a nap
2 hours later on…
10:20 am: Seeing patients in the outpatient clinic
I felt like a Batman, having a double life, a runner at dawn and a doctor by day, and it felt good.
Being able to wake up so early in the morning doing the thing you love and keeping your body healthy is such a great start for the day. By moving and pushing your body to run, you are not only doing maintenance, you are making it what it’s built to do, remembering it’s built in genetic instinct of running, hunting, and exploring.
I saw a different Egypt by dawn, 2 young ladies running on the other side of Kasr El Nile bridge, I really wanted to salute their will and power, but in my own running group I had 2 first timers to run 10k who also deserve recognition for their high spirit.
Running in a group is such an add on, I highly recommend adding a group run at least once a week for every casual runner.

Group Run at 5:30 AM

If anyone told me a couple of months ago, we will meet 5:30 in the morning to run and take some pictures I will definitely say : No thank you, are you crazy ?

Well, I ran today at 5:30 am, took some pictures and I am not crazy, indeed I am an associate university professor who loves to run.

Two weeks ago, I met a Passant, a colleague from work, in Aswan who told me about a running group in Zamalek and that she will invite me to a group run when we go back to Cairo.

Last week, Ibrahim an old friend messaged me and invited me to the Zamalek group and it turns out to be the same group that Shefaa (my old downtown runner friend) told me about.

5:15 I was standing in 26th July street waiting for the group to gather, few minutes later, more than 20 people, women and men, different ages were cruising the streets running and enjoying the sunrise.

We stopped at the beautiful Kasr El Nile street took a celebration picture, acknowledging our humble achievements in Aswan race, new personal records, new first timers and above all celebrating the spirit and perseverance in reaching this far.

Amany the ironwoman and the positive spirit behind this group was distributing magic cookies that were delicious healthy and filled us with power to go back running where we started.

Another amazing woman Cherry, who had a recent injury, joined us by car and woke so early just not to miss this amazing gathering and kept taking pictures and videos of every single one of us.

Another great run and a new start for me, group running.

الوحدة و التوحيد

حين تقرر أن تدخل اختبارا وتحديا صعبا باختيارك وليس فرضا عليك فعادة ما يكون تحديا للنفس قبل أن يكون منافسة لأحد، وحين يصبح ذلك الاختبار تحديا للجسد و النفس و العقل فذلك ما يكون الأصعب.

وحينما تكون في ذروة الاختبار تدرك معاني كثيرة قد تنساها في خضم الاحداث اليومية.

يوما بعد يوم تفكر ما هي أولوياتك وما هي الحياة وكيف نعيشها ويوما بعد يوم أشعر بأهمية إدراك أننا حين سنموت سندفن فرادا وسنلقى الله فرادا وسنحاسب فرادا.

أدرك يوما بعد يوم ان قاعدة “لا تنتظر المقابل” هي قاعدة إن أدركتها قد تريح بالك و قلبك، اعطي ولا تنتظر، تحرك في حياتك وفق ضميرك ولا تنتظر.

نلتقى بآلاف الأشخاص في حياتنا و لا يبقى منهم في قلوبنا إلا القليل، بل أن من يبقى منهم قد يختار احيانا أن يرحل عنا باختياره، و من يبقى بجوارنا قد يختار أن لا يشاركك نفس المشاعر، و قد لا يلقى المرء طوال حياته من يبادله نفس الشعور.

يوما بعد يوم ادرك ان رياضة العدو للمسافات الطويلة هي كما الحياة، فأنت الذي عليك ببذل المجهود و ليس شخص آخر، أنت من ستفور في النهاية و ليس شخص آخر, أنت من عليك بمنافسة نفسك لأنك لو فعلت غير ذلك, ستسقط لأنك لم تخلق مثل من تنظر إليه, و كل ميسر لما خلق له, عليك بتحديد هدفك أنت, و خطتك أنت, و طريقك أنت و سرعتك أنت.

حين تجري لساعات وحيدا لا تسمع سوى صوت أنفاسك وآلام جسدك وضربات ارجلك على الأرض تدرك التشابه الذي يقترب إلي التماثل بين الحياة و الجري.

أجري وحيدا وأدرك أهمية تعلم الشعور بالوحدة على الأرض و عدم التعلق و ادراك معنى التوحيد و التعلق بالخالق, فهل نتعلم أم سننسى عند انتهاء الاختبار؟

My Second Half Marathon Aswan42

Once I finished my first marathon, I said: What did I do to myself? Next night I was signing for my second half marathon in Aswan.

After 48 hours of rest I did some cross training on the Elliptical bike followed by stretches.

For the following 3 days I ran 6, 10 and 14 kilometers and then tapered to 5 kilometer 4 days before the race.

48 hours before the race I felt like catching a cold and had some sore throat and generalized leg pain.

Arrived Thursday afternoon to Aswan, checked into the hotel, had a walk on the corniche then ate lunch.

7pm, went for the race registration and attended it’s briefing.

10 pm, bedtime but couldn’t sleep at all, very worried, didn’t feel good and was too excited and anticipating to sleep.

4:45 am, woke up after a disturbed night sleep, took a quick snack and was heading to the race venue at 5:15 am.

It felt quiet crazy walking to the race before the sunrise and thinking of what you are going to throw yourself into, but I felt energetic despite all the fears.

6:15 am the race started, I smoothed into the race with a slow pace and enjoyed the rhythm for the next 10 k. Starting from the 5k mark for each 2.5k I stopped and grabbed a small banana and a sip of water.

My plan was to start to gain momentum in the last 5k, but I started to pull myself from the 10k mark, from that moment I kept improving my pace and passing the runners until I reached the finish line.

Although my time was 5 minutes slower than the previous race, my plan was much better and smarter and it felt good and right to distribute the effort along the race.

It’s better to finish strong and powerful than to finish weak and depleted.

Mental and Physical Harmony

I always preferred listening to music while running than to listen to the sound of my breaths, and I do believe that some songs do add extra power and pace to your body in times you are desperate for any extra help.

When I started this blog I thought of not writing only on running but on reflections on running and our daily life and all what I think off while running.

My cousin who is newbie runner like me, reminded me of listening to podcast while running and how time really flies, I thought of giving it another try and it really helped.

First, podcasts are audio formats of any media form, could be a book, assay, talk show, TV show, radio show.

Second, download an app on your phone, whether it is an iPhone or android you will find plenty of apps under audio/video or podcasts category.

Time now to explore the different shows and add some to your favorites, most apps will offer the offline download option so you can save data.

I liked RadioPublic very much and tunein and if you like audiobooks you can subscribe to audible.com were you can find all the bestselling books in audio format, or take a free trial, buy individual books or add audio format to your already owned book on amazon. Tunein offers in addition to the free service, a paid subscription service that gives access to a very wide variety of audiobooks and shows for a lower monthly fees, however you don’t own the books after the subscription ends.

I thought of trying the free shows first and I really liked it very much so far. Last week I needed to do a couple of easy runs in preparation for my next half marathon next Friday, so I did download a couple of shows and it really felt so good.

It felt like my mind and body are in great harmony both being stimulated in a steady and comfortable way to be in better shape.

Remember running is not always nice and enjoyable, because when you start to run you will notice that you will need to give a lot in order to get one of those heavenly runs.

Now go run and wait search for the harmony and enjoy.

13 things Running & Life Share Together

  1. You choose your route, you like the track, streets parks or the desert.
  2. You choose you distance, long distance, short but it doesn’t mean you will reach your destination.
  3. You choose your running partner, sometimes he chooses you or you might meet by chance or you might choose to just run by yourself.
  4. You choose your pace; some people like to go slow and steady other like to run hard and get more tired but they take a risk of having an injury but at the same time you reach your goal faster and triumph as leader.
  5. You never know what’s going to happen as some things may come up during the run or life and hinder you from reaching your goal
  6. Sometimes you are tired and sometimes you feel you can fly
  7. Do not judge people by their look as ability, speed and endurance are unrelated to your body size or shape.
  8. You set a goal, you break it into small goal and ultimately you will reach and you might even surprise yourself.
  9. No train no gain, this is not rocket science, no pain no gain.
  10. You can rest if you are tired and at some point, you need to stand up and run again.
  11. People may help you, give you food, drinks etc. but it’s only you who is going to make it
  12. You need to be prepared and planned, cloths, training, food and drink, map and pace.
  13. Yes you can cheat, but everybody know you are a cheater.